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I have never been able to figure out this chicken-and-egg relationship between an insect with mouthparts, behaviors and life cycles that are exquisitely adapted to a specific plant species and the plant’s perfect accommodation to and absolute dependence on those same insect adaptations for its survival. This relationship is often given as the textbook example of co-evolution.

The insect: the Yucca Moth. The plant, what we call Spanish Bayonet, Yucca filamentosa. You can read more about the biology of this relationship here (note the my Natural History page!). The plant from which this photo was taken is just beyond our front porch. We think the species name is based on the word YUK because they are taking over a half acre of pasture down where Goose and Nameless Creeks meet.

And more evolution: I think I have come upon the narrative thread, purpose and theme of a future book that will be a full color nature-related work. I can’t tell you too much about it just yet (for both reasons of it’s present state of immaturity and because I need a certain degree of nondisclosure to protect the concept). But it seems like one of those AHA! coming-together moments. It will likely take two years to carry to print. But at least I have the sense just now that even though there is not much forward motion in this long journey, the destination is known.

And if this project reaches the conclusion I hope, it will represent the co-evolutionary end point that brings together my long-standing love of light seen through the lens of a camera, my equally enduring compulsion to connect the sense and senses of field-trippers in nature, and my relatively new passion for writing about the images from such personal field trips just out our door.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. “But at least I have the sense just now that even though there is not much forward motion in this long journey, the destination is known.”

    That in itself is a huge step: like a magnet, the destination will draw you towards itself. One of the best books I read about creativity (okay, about the only such book!) talks about the essential germination stage. Very little visible external change, but significant internal organisation emerging. Sounds like that’s where you’re at – I look forward to the results even if they will be 2 years away!